With over 1.2 billion people living in India, 70 percent of which are reliant on agriculture for food and income, steady development in this sector will be a key determinant of global food security in years to come. To revitalise agricultural growth for the Indian small holder farmer- sharply declining in recent years- leaders of the national Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) joined CABI representatives in New Dehli to outline critical measures for expanding the Plantwise food security programme in the country.
Led by CABI, Plantwise began establishment in 2011 of a plant clinic network in India, run by trained local plant doctors from among national agencies and MSSRF, to provide places where small holder farmers can go for diagnosis and advice against plant pests- now destroying 40% of crops around the world.
On the issue of Plantwise, CABI’s Regional Director Dr Ravi Khetarpal was able to bring instrumental stakeholders together to pledge support for steps towards collaboration, including a new technical working group under the Secretary of MoA Mr Ashish Bahuguna. On hand were Programme Executive Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann and the Global Director of Plantwise Knowledge Bank Dr Shaun Hobbs to introduce the Plantwise approach to the Indian experts. The goal: sustainable expansion of Plantwise operations, capitalising on the benefits for farmers already witnessed across the programme.
As pointed out during the roundtable meeting, Nany Anabel, Director Information, Education & Communication of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation – a local NGO and Plantwise partner running 14 plant clinics – said that 46 farmers reported on a single day a disease problem which was correctly identified as rice blast by plant doctors. Due to the timely diagnosis and quality advice given, farmers made an extra yield of 5.9 tons in 100 acres.
The Secretary of MoA Bahuguna agreed that in order to scale up these results, “it is instrumental that Plantwise makes a strong link to the extension machinery of state governments and make it a national programme.” Dr Kuhlmann reiterated that there is already a high level of expert knowledge in India, and similar efforts for pest management such as local clinics, which can be harmonized with Plantwise. “We agree it is important to link the Plantwise programme to national and state governmental authorities responsible for extension and plant protection, as well as working with NGOs and international organizations such as FAO,” added Dr Kuhlmann.
The FAO noted appreciation for Plantwise policies on pesticides in keeping with international standards, such as those of the International Plant Protection Convention, safeguarding not only growth, but health, safety and environmental protection.
Quality, science-based advice from CABI has been present in India for over 55 years, as Dr Khetarpal pointed out, since the Indian Centre of Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control was established, evolving into the National Biological Control Programme headquarters for the Indian Centre of Agricultural Research. Plantwise continues this legacy, in partnership with national extension and research, to bring a resurgence of support to rural communities where it is needed most.
“It is important for the MoA to share plant protection information with CABI and to develop an institutional interface with CABI India,” concluded Secretary of MoA Bahuguna. Based on the outcome of the roundtable meeting, Dr Khetarpal viewed this as a positive step, one of many to come, for continued growth of Plantwise in India, working in unison with key stakeholders of the national plant health system- from the MoA, FAO, research and implementation partners, and of course, the needs of the small holder farmers themselves.